A/N: Hi there! This is my first attempt at T:SCC fanfiction and I hope you enjoy it! Helpful hints: italics mean thoughts, bold means flashbacks, and bold stuff in all caps means it's on Cameron's menu screen. Reviews are crucial here people, if I don't get feedback on this thing, I can't guarantee any future updates.

Disclaimer: I don't own T:SCC, or any of the characters therein, they belong to James Cameron and Fox (last time I checked). I also don't own the lyrics to, or the songs themselves, "When the Man Comes Around" by Johnny Cash or "Stay" by Shakespeare Sister (the YouTube vid by karenloveskarl to that song for John and Cameron is what inspired me to write this). Lastly, I don't own any of the products (Dr Pepper and Doritos for example) mentioned in this chapter or future chapters.

Warning: I began this fic BEFORE S2 began, so if you're looking for a fic where Cameron is all skitzo and trying to kill John, sorry but that's not gonna happen here! At least I don't think so… ;-P

Chapter Rating: Mature (Language, violence, gore, and the occasional dirty thought…hey there is a TEENAGE boy in this fic and a girl that looks like a supermodel walking around, why the hell wouldn't there be at least dirty THOUGHTS? -blush- Sorry… I had a lot of sugar today… Ahem, I'm gonna go now…)

Written While Under the Influence of: Johnny Cash-When the Man Comes Around, T2: Judgment Day (especially the part where "Uncle Bob" powers himself back up and pulls the pole out of his stomach…read and ye shall understand), and the YouTube vid by karenloveskarl "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles video/Stay" (song—Shakespeare Sister-Stay).

Chapter One: When the Man Comes Around

And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts

And I looked and behold: a pale horse

And his name that sat on him was Death

And hell followed with him

The explosion was deafening. A fireball climbed high into the mid-afternoon sky of the small residential neighborhood in Southern California. Thick black smoke billowed up and away from the burning remains of the vehicle, turning the bright blue sky a mottled gray. John Connor and his mother, Sarah, exchanged matching looks of rising panic, then realization dawned on the young man's handsome features. All the blood drained from his face, leaving his skin pallid and cold.

Cameron was out there.

John was up off the desk chair and through his bedroom door in seconds, dodging his mother's desperate grab for his elbow along the way. He didn't even hear her cry his name as she chased after him into the living room. The front door slammed harshly in her face as he exited the house, preventing her from immediately following him outside.

He darted across the miniscule front yard toward the twisted hunk of flaming metal that until a moment ago had been his mother's Jeep. The sounds of multiple screeching car alarms that'd been triggered by the blast assaulted his ears, but he ignored them. His hands came up instinctively to protect his eyes from the smoke and heat of the flames licking across the warped hood of the automobile. The future leader of humanity moved ever closer to the fiery ruins, intent on finding the machine—the Terminator that a future version of himself sent back in time to protect him—that he called Cameron.

"CAMERON!" John shouted as he scanned the wreckage, becoming increasingly frustrated when he found no sign of her.

Sarah suddenly grabbed her son around the shoulders with one hand, the other toting her ubiquitous shotgun, and began hauling him backwards.

"No! Let me go! We have to help her!" John yelled, struggling against his mother's amazingly strong grip.

"John, you can't do anything for her! We have to go now!" Sarah began as Derek Reese, John's uncle, raced across the street and helped her pull him toward the house.

John fought back with increased vigor, managing to prevent both the adults from moving his lean, sixteen-year-old frame a single inch away from where he now stood.

"Damn it, John, she's a machine! That thing is not human!" Sarah growled with the effort of holding him back.

"CAMERON!" John screamed frantically as Derek wrapped one muscled arm around his nephew's waist and began forcibly dragging him across the front yard.

As though by command, the entire pile of burning metal abruptly shifted. The deformed cab of the Jeep burst outward as the passenger side door was kicked off its hinges with preternatural force. A black blur flung itself out onto the grass and rolled a few feet, dousing the flames from its body, before stopping right in front of the flabbergasted trio.

Cameron shoved herself up off the ground and into a standing position as tendrils of smoke curled off her body. Her beautiful porcelain-skinned face was smudged with soot in addition to the tiny cuts dotting both her cheeks and forehead, specks of blood and gleaming metal peeking out from underneath the torn flesh. Her clothes and knee-high boots had all been partially eaten away by the fire and were just barely hanging onto her petite form.

John's wide emerald green eyes took in the disheveled appearance of his robotic protector. Her right arm was badly burned, the fabric of her jacket that'd covered it was entirely burnt away, exposing the blistered red flesh of her shoulder and bicep as rivulets of blood traveled a topsy-turvy pathway down her arm to her hand. The bottom of the green tank top she wore was scorched all the up way to her bellybutton, but the pale taut skin of her stomach was obscured by the splotches of soot clinging to her flesh. Her left pant leg was torn from the top of her thigh all the way to her knee where she'd tucked the bottoms of the tight jeans into her black biker boots, which sported only a few tears and some small scorch marks.

Undulations of heat rippled across her form, distorting her features for an instant before a sudden breeze chased them away. The gust of wind brushed the girl's shoulder-length brown hair away from her face, revealing her captivating eyes, as well as more minor injuries to her neck and chest. Cameron's deep brown irises locked on John's, a strange emotion clouding the usually impassive stare she often fixed him with. Relief crashed over him in great waves to see her safe and mostly unharmed in front of him. A flash of cerulean blue lit up her eyes for an instant, but was gone just as quickly. The cyborg immediately stepped forward, then toppled face first onto the ground like a ton of bricks.

John's entire body jerked while he watched in horror as the invincible machine collapsed like a broken doll on the grass and did not move. The young man instantly shoved himself away from his mother and uncle then knelt beside Cameron on the ground.

It was only then that he noticed a large piece of metal shrapnel embedded in the middle of her back. The wide, blackened fragment of steel had punctured completely through her torso, and was visibly protruding a few inches out of her back as well as from her stomach. Dark red blood oozed out around the jagged edges of the charred metal then pooled in the small of her back, gradually soaking into the green fabric of her shirt.

Frowning, John grabbed one of her arms and pulled, only managing to barely lift the heavy limb off the ground. Grunting with the physical exertion, he glared up at the unmoving Sarah and Derek.

"Help me move her!" he commanded.

John was more than a little surprised at the fact that he'd just ordered his mother and uncle to do something, but now wasn't the time for tact. Sarah's icy green eyes bore into him, her expression unreadable, and for a moment he was absolutely certain she wasn't going to lift a finger to help Cameron in any way. But then to his amazement, she stepped forward and reached for the girl's other arm. Derek stood there, arms crossed over his chest, watching the two fruitlessly try to pick up the inactive machine.

"Derek! Get over here and take her legs!" John barked as he tried unsuccessfully to stand with Cameron's full weight balanced between him and his petite mother.

The time-displaced soldier merely raised one eyebrow at him as if to say "you have got to be kidding me" and remained rooted to the spot.

Sarah turned toward the man, fixed him with an angry glower and shouted, "A car just exploded in the middle of the street! The fire department's going to show up in a few minutes, and then the cops. I think they might notice that you are an escaped felon and that I'm a wanted fugitive by the FBI. We can't leave the Tin-Can here for them to find, otherwise we might as well hand her over to Skynet and say 'Best of luck you guys!' So get your ass over here right now and grab her damn legs!"

The two stared each other down for a long moment and John was almost tempted to run for cover as the one-on-one version of World War III began, but then Derek rolled his eyes and walked over to where they were crouched on the ground. He lifted Cameron's legs into his arms with a great sigh of effort, and with all three of them working in tandem, they managed to raise her body to where they could walk and carry her at the same time.

Seconds later they dropped Cameron's lifeless form onto the couch in the living room and stood there staring at her, panting exhaustedly from carrying the lithe body of a young girl with a skeleton made entirely out of metal alloy. Derek and Sarah had unceremoniously dumped her onto the ratty piece of furniture, leaving one limp arm hanging off the cushions with her fingertips skimming the dusty surface of the floor. The arm that John had been carrying her by was gently folded across her stomach, her hand resting just beneath the grisly exit wound of the shrapnel, while both of her legs were perched on the edge of the couch in a way that would've been excruciating for a normal individual—John was certain that Derek hadn't done that accidentally.

Her head was turned at an odd angle and wisps of dark brown hair were splayed across her cheeks. Those perpetually inquisitive eyes of hers were still open, but they were now glazed over and dull—utterly lifeless. The thingthat lay on the couch before him wasn't Cameron anymore, it was an empty shell, completely devoid of the entity John had come to know as so much more than just a machine.

An involuntary shiver zigzagged up his spine at the thought.

"She's a machine. She doesn't have a soul and she never will. You don't have to trust her, you can trust me."

His own malicious words from just days earlier reverberated in his ears as he stared at her frozen form. Regardless of what he'd told Derek and his mother simply to shut up their paranoid conspiracy theories about Cameron being the actual creator of Skynet, John was unable to see her as only a machine. He'd been angry at them for constantly doubting her—and him for that matter—and when coupled with his conflicting emotions about Cameron at the time, the words had just spilled out. He knew even as he said it he didn't really think that about her himself, but maybe if he could convince Sarah and Derek that he did, he could somehow make himself believe it too.

"Why isn't she waking up?" John managed to choke out around deep gasps for air as he knelt beside his pretend sister's inert form. "It's been over 120 seconds, shouldn't she have rebooted by now?"

"We'll figure that out later. We need to get the hell outta here before the cops show up," Sarah stated in her usual steely voice.

Her cool, green-apple colored eyes were calm and calculating as she turned toward them, then handed out missions to her son and Derek in a way that'd make a drill sergeant proud.

"John, go grab everything we have that's even remotely associated with Skynet and pack it up. Derek, we need a car. A truck or SUV would be best, you've got five minutes to steal one and get back here. I'll get the weapons," Sarah stalked off in the direction of her bedroom the instant she finished giving orders without so much as a backward glance at the other two to see if they complied.

Derek immediately disappeared out the back door of the small house and sprinted off to a nearby subdivision. John didn't want to leave Cameron in the state she was in, but knew that if he wanted to help her they couldn't get caught. And to not get caught they needed to get away from this house as soon as possible. So he pushed himself to his feet and darted toward his bedroom. He tossed Vick's chip, Sarkissian's hard drive, his own laptop, and anything else he could think of that might help the police find them or hasten the arrival of Judgment Day into his backpack, then turned to his dresser. He shoved a few T-shirts, jeans, a gray hooded sweatshirt, some boxers and socks into the already overstuffed bag before racing out into the hall, struggling to close the two clasps of his backpack along the way.

He dropped his backpack beside the couch, spared a quick glance at Cameron's unmoving form, grimaced, then bolted back up the stairs to her bedroom. A part of him still wanted to stay with her, to do something to help her, but the dead expression on her face was really creeping him out. Those gorgeous chocolate brown eyes of hers just stared up at him, glassy and unfocused—it was too much like looking at a corpse. He did not like seeing her that way. John knew it bothered him more than it should, but he just couldn't help it.

He burst into the cyborg's room seconds later, only momentarily stopping to stare at the bright pink walls and thinking that somewhere the god of irony was laughing himself silly, then set about rummaging through her own dresser to find some new clothes for her. He flung some long sleeved shirts—to accommodate for her burned arm—onto the bed behind him, followed by some T-shirts and pants, then yanked open the third drawer down. For a second he thought he'd walked into Victoria's Secret, then realized he'd just opened Cameron's underwear drawer.

The teenage boy stood staring slack-jawed at the assortment of lacy bras and panties in front of him, a scarlet blush creeping onto his face then traveling up to the tips of his ears at the knowledge of whom the undergarments belonged to. An image of Cameron obliviously walking down the hall in nothing but a bra and boy-shorts immediately came to mind. That vision was accompanied by another of Cameron without any clothes at all, a memory of when they'd traveled across time from 1999 to 2007 and their clothes had disintegrated along the way.

Shaking the dirty thoughts from his head and ordering his mind back out of the gutter, he reached in and grabbed a handful of soft fabric and chucked it onto the bed. He then jerked open her closet searching for her messenger bag. He found it in the corner of the nearly empty wardrobe and brusquely dumped its contents out on the floor. Two small textbooks and a spiral notebook spilled out first, followed by a thick calculus book that almost fell onto his foot in his haste to empty the bag as quickly as possible. John snagged a pair of shoes off the floor to replace her ruined boots then rammed everything he'd found into the small bag and ran back downstairs.

Sarah was already standing beside the front door, staring out a nearby window with her shotgun still firmly in hand, surveying for the authorities and Derek. A large black duffel bag lay on the floor a few feet away, presumably filled with ammunition and weapons. John noted dismally that Cameron was still laid out exactly where they'd left her on the couch.

"You get everything?" Sarah demanded without even looking at him.

"Yeah, I think," John nodded as he placed the messenger bag next to his own backpack on the floor and approached Cameron again.

He balanced precariously on the edge of the cushion beside her, reaching out to run his fingers lightly across her pale cheek. Cameron's beautiful face had been blessedly untouched by the flames, and aside from a few tiny cuts, was relatively unmarked. The skin of her cheek was as soft as he remembered it being just days before when he'd stroked her there after he replaced her CPU, almost willing her to wake up by using his touch as a beacon to return to him. But then, as now, she'd been cold, her usual warmth usurped because of what she'd done for him.

The hand that'd been caressing her smooth cheek instantly doubled into a fist at the thought. First, Cameron allowed him to cut out her CPU—essentially her brain—simply because he'd asked her to, and what thanks had she gotten from him? Having him coldly say that she had no soul and never would. Now she was burned and broken on the couch before him because she'd been going to buy him a birthday cake. If it hadn't been for him giving her that stupid, self-indulgent speech about the importance of his birthday she never would've gotten into the Jeep to buy him a damn cake in the first place, and she'd be perfectly fine right now. This was all his fault.

John was so angry with himself that he couldn't see straight. He wanted to punch himself right in the face for how he'd treated her. Everything Cameron had ever done had been for him and he constantly told her she was a freak for it or condemned her as being the very thing that he and his mother had been fighting to destroy for as long as he could remember.

True, Cameron was a machine—a Terminator—created by Skynet specifically for the purpose of taking human life, but from the very beginning John could tell that she was fundamentally different from any Terminator he'd ever known. Not just because she was there to save his life, the T-800 that'd been sent back to protect him before had never come anywhere even remotely close to being as human as Cameron was from day one.

As pathetic as it might sound, the T-800 that he'd dubbed "Uncle Bob" was as close to a father as John had ever known during the entire first twelve years of his life—and he'd only been around for two days, give or take. So for him to say Cameron had surpassed his surrogate father in terms of humanity, John had to really mean it.

And he did.

His relationship with Cameron was difficult to categorize and rocky at best, but he still cared for her deeply, and he thought she at least saw him as more than just the teenage boy she'd been assigned to protect. Why else would she have been so nice to him when she didn't have to? Or touched him as often as she did?

The memory of her fingertips lightly sliding along the back of his neck as she'd walked by immediately replayed in his mind. While it'd been a subtle, small gesture on her part—that also had occurred almost two months ago, back when they'd just moved to California—that one simple touch had evoked a myriad of emotions from him. Surely comforting him physically wasn't something she'd been programmed with. Although in light of what he'd gleaned from Vick's chip about just how far a Terminator could take playing human, John was unsure of how he should view Cameron's actions anymore.

Did she genuinely have something akin to emotions of her own? Could she perhaps be fostering the same feelings toward him that he knew he possessed for her? Or was she just a Terminator that was quite successfully mimicking human behavior so that she could get the desired results from him? And if she was, what the holy-hell could those results possibly be?

God, he was going to go crazy thinking about this…

No, he was not going to become his mother or his uncle and drive himself up the wall with a bunch of unfounded paranoid delusions. Whatever Cameron's agenda was, she'd been sent here by John himself—albeit approximately twenty years into the future—to protect him and that was all that mattered. If he was uncertain about trusting Cameron, he could at least trust himself, right?

John glanced down at Cameron as though she could provide all the answers to his contemplations. But her glazed over eyes simply stared past him, and he found no other sign of life in her at all. John plunged his fingers into his shaggy, dark brown hair and raked them roughly over his scalp in an attempt to alleviate some of his frustration. He turned to his mother and saw her still staring out the window, completely focused on her self-appointed task. She probably didn't even know he was in the room with her—although he sincerely doubted it. His mother made a point of knowing as much about where he was and what he was doing as possible. In fact, John was absolutely certain that if Sarah could, she would've slapped a LoJack on him a long time ago so she could know his whereabouts every hour of the day.

Moving himself into a more comfortable position on the lumpy couch, John fixed his gaze back on Cameron once again. With a tenderness he didn't even know he possessed, he brushed some errant locks of her dark hair away from her face, allowing himself a few moments to revel in the silky texture of the long strands as they slid across the pads of his fingers. Before he even realized what he was doing, he moved his hand down and traced lightly over her lips, almost like Vick had done to Barbara Chamberlain in that video, but differently. This action wasn't about manipulating her into doing something he wanted her to do, John simply wanted to know if her mauve lips were as soft as they looked.

They were.

He had no idea if he should be oddly comforted or deeply disturbed by that fact. Once his fingertips made contact with her lips, it was as if he couldn't pull away. His thumb gently swept across her bottom lip, following its full, smooth curve all the way to the corner, then moving up to the perfect arch of her upper lip. Instinctively, he learned their contours and committed them to memory. Even if he never got this close to Cameron ever again, he would always remember exactly how her lips felt against his skin.

When he finally managed to remove his fingers from her intoxicatingly soft lips, he was almost disappointed to not see her head adorably quirked to the side as she watched him with obvious interest and curiosity. For some reason, John thought that if he touched her long enough she'd wake up. That she'd come back to him as she had before. Sort of like Sleeping Beauty, a simple brush of his skin against hers and she'd awaken. Wait, the guy kissed the girl in that story, right? John didn't really know, most of the stories his mother had read him as a kid were not of the warm and fuzzy variety—thus why he'd often endured some very disturbing nightmares as a child.

So maybe if he kissed her… John would not even let that line of thought continue.

One, it was ridiculous—Cameron was an injured Terminator, a kiss wasn't going to repair whatever damage she'd sustained. And two, his mother would turn around and kill them both before any miraculous "healing" could occur. But the thought managed to wedge itself in his mind and refused to leave, regardless of how absurd it sounded. His eyes, just a shade darker than his mother's, locked on Cameron's lips. He knew how soft they were now, but he still had no idea how they would taste. Maybe if he just stole one quick peck his mother would never notice…

Embarrassment rushed through him at the thought. Cameron was badly injured and unconscious and here he was trying to think of a way to kiss her? John felt like the worst kind of pervert in that moment. He scooted as far away from her small frame as he could without falling off the couch so that he wouldn't be tempted to go ahead and kiss her anyway, despite what his conscience told him.

He busied himself with smoothing down the scorched hem of her shirt, pointedly ignoring the jagged piece of steel sticking out from the middle of her abdomen. The garment had ridden up high on her stomach when they carried her inside, revealing a patch of milky-white skin that was almost begging him to touch it. John put a few more inches between them just to be safe and stared at her again.

He hated just sitting here idly, waiting for either Cameron to awaken or Derek to show up with a car. He should be doing something to help. But what could he do? He had no idea what the hell was wrong with Cameron and knew even less about how to fix it, so anything he did might cause more harm than good to her. So John did the only thing he could think to do. He lifted her arm that dangled off the couch then tenderly took her small hand in his own. John brought her limp hand to his lips and brushed a feather-light kiss across her knuckles, mumbling an apology thickly against her soft skin. He inched closer to her, seemingly content to just run his thumb across her knuckles until he had the opportunity to do something more to help her.

While John sat with her, he didn't notice the minute flash of blue light deep within Cameron's brown eyes. The spark was weak and erratic, but a sure sign of life.

Absolute awareness returned to the cyborg's mind in a flood of data. With cold, canny precision the Terminator calmly appraised her situation in less than a second.






In the moment before she collapsed, Cameron had been aware of the damage to her main power cell and had already begun the search for a new source of energy to keep herself operational. But unfortunately she'd been unable to access the new supply before her CPU shut down and she went into an energy saving mode. She was now running on the last vestiges of power left in her system from that mode.

Cameron had approximately ten seconds of power left to access the new energy supply before she shut down indefinitely. Static wreaked havoc on her main display, but she ignored it.


Those three simple commands flashed before a schematic of her circuits, and then her menu screen lit up as life-giving power surged back into her mechanical limbs.

John felt Cameron's hand lightly squeeze his own, and jerked his head toward hers in disbelief. He heard the faint whir of her servos and gears as her eyes widened before she lifted her head to look at him.

"Are you injured?" she asked immediately.

He stared at her with his mouth bobbing unintelligibly for a moment before getting over the shock of her being suddenly awake and talking to him. He swallowed down the lump that'd formed in his throat and released her hand quickly.

"No, Cameron. I'm fine," he answered her in a raspy voice then turned his head away to hide the rising blush that stained his cheeks.

She'd just been in a massive explosion and all she cared about was if he was safe. John didn't think he'd ever get used to the single-minded devotion of a Terminator.

Satisfied that John was unharmed, Cameron then turned her gaze toward the injury to her torso. She raised the hand that John had placed beneath the wound, then after a few seconds of inspection, wrapped her hand around the jagged metal protruding from her stomach and twisted it sharply to the side. John watched in mute horror as she proceeded to slowly pull it out of her body, the screeching sound of metal grating against metal filling the room as she did so. Cameron brusquely dropped the chunk of metal onto the floor a moment later then maneuvered herself up into a sitting position.

John lifted the fragment off the floor and turned it over in his hands in disbelief, staring fixedly at the mixture of blood and oil coating the sides of the charred metal.

"What happened?" Sarah demanded as she strode over to the duo.

"A man. Caucasian, late thirties, brown hair, slight build, average height. Probable identity: the man behind the counter at the Internet Café. He was walking away from the Jeep when it exploded. Given my injuries and the damage to the vehicle, I believe he attached an explosive to the undercarriage—possibly C4 or an equivalent high explosive—with a trigger on the ignition switch," Cameron stated in a monotone as she rose to her feet.

"That's great, but I meant just now. Why were you shut down for so long? You said your system automatically reboots after 120 seconds, and it's been about five minutes since you went down," Sarah continued as she cast an accusatory glance towards the robot.

Cameron stared at Sarah with an expression strangely akin to annoyance on her face, then answered in an ultra calm voice, "A piece of shrapnel from the Jeep punctured my torso and lodged in my endoskeleton. Normally, steel would not harm me at all, but with the force and velocity it gained from the blast, it was able to penetrate my hyperalloy combat chassis. The circuits running from my main power cell were damaged and I shut down to conserve power while a system diagnostic was performed to determine an appropriate alternative power source."

John and Sarah just stared at her for a long moment after she finished her monologue, unsure of what to say next since neither of them had particularly understood any of what Cameron had just said.

"So…does that mean you're going to be okay now?" John asked after a few seconds of thought.

"I require repairs, but I will remain operational with my existing power source for approximately 46.71 hours," Cameron stated as she walked toward the television, using the reflective surface of the screen to appraise the superficial injuries to her face and neck.

"That's good, I guess…" John muttered, still unable to tear his gaze away from Cameron.

Sarah turned back to the window, face grim as she looked for some sign of Derek. She hoped John didn't notice the panic that was beginning to creep over her; Derek should've been back by now with a car, and while the fire department and the police had not yet arrived—which she thought was strange, but was still immensely thankful for that fact—they'd show up eventually. She took a deep breath and tried to keep up her calm façade, because Sarah knew that if she allowed herself to lose her cool now, she'd only put John in more danger than they were already in.

At that moment, the sound of screeching tires filled the air. A black Chevrolet SUV skidded to a stop in front of the house; the driver side window rolled down a second later then Derek struck his head out and shouted, "Let's go!"

Sarah grabbed the duffel bag off the floor and slung it onto her back over one shoulder, then motioned for John and Cameron to go ahead. John nodded quickly then snatched his backpack and strode toward the door, with Cameron a few steps behind him, pulling on her messenger bag as she went. Sarah exited the house last, shotgun still in hand, providing cover to her son as though she expected an attack at any second. High-pitched screams greeted the appearance of her weapon as the neighbors that'd ventured outside to investigate the source of the explosion all ducked back into the protection of their homes.

Once John and Cameron had piled into the backseat and Sarah had hopped into the passenger side of the large vehicle, Derek immediately sped off, swerving through the residential area at breakneck speeds with all the precision of a NASCAR driver. Sarah abandoned her shotgun on the floorboard then turned in her seat and unceremoniously thrust a Glock 19 handgun toward Cameron. She pulled her own Glock 30 from the duffel and chambered a round as she glanced into the rearview mirror to see if anyone was following them. John opened his bag and yanked out the gray hoodie he'd packed, offering it to the injured machine. She quirked her head to the side in contemplation as she regarded the garment, then turned her curious brown eyes up to him, brow slightly furrowed.

"To cover up your burns," John began, casting a meaningful glance at the patch of raw, blistered flesh on her right arm, "we can't attract attention, remember?"

Cameron nodded and replied as she reached for the thick cotton sweatshirt, "Thank you for explaining."

She pulled it on over her head, concealing the damage to her torso while leaving her beautiful face still exposed. John smiled at her response, normally it annoyed him—since she said it so often—but hearing her say anything at the moment was truly music to his ears. He'd come too close to losing her to care about her quirky mannerisms right now.

"Anyone behind us?" Derek demanded, taking the turn out of their subdivision and cutting off a sedan as he pulled onto the road.

"Nothing. No cops, no other cars…absolutely nothing," Sarah answered disbelievingly, slumping back in her seat beside him but keeping her eyes glued to the passenger side rearview mirror.

"You're sure?" Derek asked as he cast her a sidelong glance.

"I can't believe it either, but there's nothing back there," Sarah retorted, shaking her head and tossing her short, choppy black locks off her shoulders.

"What happened to the Tin-Can back there?" Derek questioned with a malicious twist of his lips as he jerked the wheel sharply to the side to pass a slower moving car.

"I sustained massive damages to the circuits running from my main power cell, but I was able to reroute my primary energy source to feed off of my secondary power cell. It is powered by the nuclear byproducts of my main power cell, so it will only stay operational temporarily until the damage to my primary circuits is repaired," Cameron deadpanned, eyes intently locked on the time-displaced soldier but her face remained impassive.

"In English anybody?" Derek inquired a minute later.

"She got blown up and was damaged. And at some point we're going to have to repair her," John supplied huffily, green eyes boring into his uncle's back.

He did not like the way Derek seemed almost disappointed that Cameron was up and around on her own again, and John had no qualms about letting his uncle know that his obvious disdain for the cyborg was very unappreciated at the moment.

The SUV finally made it onto the freeway and blended in with the late afternoon commuter traffic. Derek greatly reduced his speed at Sarah's behest to make them seem all the more inconspicuous. John found his eyes unconsciously drawn to Cameron every few minutes, making sure that she was still awake. He did not want to see her in that death-like state again if he could avoid it.

The Terminator systematically scanned the traffic around the vehicle, appraising all the other cars for even the slightest sign of a threat. She was aware of John's less-than covert glances, but didn't comment on them at the moment; now she was in full-on protector mode so any questions she had about human behavior could wait until John was out of harm's way.

Almost an hour later they were nearing the state lines. John had taken to staring out the window at the darkened world around him, a fist propped beneath his chin and one of his legs rapidly bouncing up and down in impatient frustration.

He wasn't an idiot, he knew that logically the best course of action with what'd just happened was flight, but just because he knew it was smart didn't mean he had to like it. Any sane person that'd just seen a vehicle they were supposed to have been in explode would know that the smartest plan would be to get the holy-hell out of Dodge before whoever had attempted to kill them, presumably Sarkissian from what Cameron had told them, could try again. But he'd spent too much of his life doing just what they were doing now, running, to be happy about doing it again. And John knew that this was just the tip of the proverbial iceberg with his mother and Derek calling the shots now.

Now that they were running, they'd never stop, and that meant all chances of a normal life for John Connor were shot to hell. So, needless to say, he felt that he'd earned himself the right to a "brooding teenage boy moment." He knew his mother's mind well enough to know with absolute certainty that no amount of begging or guilt he attempted to use on her would work in this situation. Sarah thought that their cover was obviously blown and that John's life was clearly at stake, so he might as well kiss "John Baum" and his new life good-bye and welcome back John Connor and living out of a car as they headed to wherever his mother deemed a "safe place."

Safe physically, without a doubt, but safe psychologically, definitely not.

His bright green eyes were jade daggers and his fingernails were bitten down almost to the point of bleeding when they finally stopped for gas at some beat-up station. Cameron offered to get it, since if attacked she'd stand the greatest chance of survival, but Sarah and Derek insisted they'd do it and that she'd protect John in the car.

The silence that descended after the two adults left seemed to have a physical weight only John could feel. He wanted to say something to Cameron but feared that if he opened his mouth he'd lash out at her in misplaced anger.

The cyborg's eyes intently scanned their surroundings and for a moment she truly resembled a moving surveillance camera. Her eyes would slowly shift from the right side of her peripheral vision and when they reached the left, her head would swivel just enough so that she could continue her 180-degree sweep of the area around them unhindered. For an instant, he vividly imagined the female Terminator mounted on the wall of a bank in lieu of a traditional surveillance camera. John stifled a chuckle at the visualization. Cameron's attention immediately snapped in his direction, eyes automatically assessing the source of the sound he'd just made. A moment later brown eyes met green, and Cameron dropped her gaze to the hem of John's borrowed sweatshirt. She attentively watched as her own manicured nails picked at a loose thread and had John not known any better he might've accused her of being uncomfortable.

Before he could comment on her unusual behavior, Cameron mumbled something.

"What?" John asked as he leaned across the backseat to hear her better.

"I said thank you," she replied in whisper so soft he could barely understand her.

"For what?" he questioned, brow scrunching in confusion.

"You didn't leave me. After the explosion…when I woke up, you were there with me," Cameron continued quietly, voice fervent with gratitude, as she finally lifted her beautiful brown eyes to his.

Swallowing the lump that'd formed in his throat at her unexpected confession, he responded just as softly, "You're welcome."

John almost leapt out of his skin when Derek roughly slammed the driver side door shut behind him and Sarah abruptly tossed half a dozen bags of junk food into the backseat proclaiming, "Here's dinner if you're hungry."

His cheeks burning a shade of crimson that rivaled the skin of a tomato, John immediately snagged a bag of potato chips and tore savagely into the plastic as Derek pulled away from the pump and parked the SUV behind the station. The younger man wasn't all that hungry, but maybe if he crammed his mouth full of food his mother wouldn't question him about how he reacted when they got back into the car.

Sarah, completely oblivious to John's uneasiness, passed Cameron two soft drinks since John was busy shoveling Doritos into his mouth at an alarming speed.

"John, slow down, you act like you haven't eaten in days. You'll choke yourself if you keep that up," Sarah reprimanded, face contorting in disgust.

The teenage boy stopped his frantic eating and popped the top on his can of Dr Pepper then washed down the crunchy mass he'd been working around in his mouth, wincing as the sharp edges of the chips grated against his throat. He was about to snap at his mother when he saw Cameron slip her hand slowly into the pile of bags Sarah had tossed into the backseat and retrieve a bag of beef jerky. John watched with rapt fascination as the machine, who'd rarely eaten more than two bites of any food in the entire time he'd known her, ripped the bag open and began to systematically devour its contents and casually sip her own drink, seemingly as reluctant to talk as he was.

He wiped the orange crumbs the chips had left on the corners of his mouth away with the back of his hand and gulped down the rest of his Dr Pepper, feigning interest in the nutrition facts printed on the back of the can to keep his eyes off of Cameron.

Derek watched the two younger occupants of the vehicle from the rearview mirror and didn't like what he was seeing at all, they looked like a couple of horny kids caught fooling around in the basement. But before he could call either of them on their awkward behavior, John noticed his uncle's watchful gaze and blurted out, "I gotta take a leak."

John practically threw himself out of the car and jogged toward the gas station's bathrooms. Derek's cold blue eyes locked on Cameron then and she, too, excused herself saying, "I should clean myself up, it would attract unnecessary attention for me to be walking around with dried blood all over my face."

The time-displaced soldier regarded the female Terminator suspiciously as she strode in the same direction as John, taking her messenger bag with her.

"Something's going on with those two," Derek deadpanned, turning to Sarah.

The woman focused an electric green glare on him, unable to speak past the water she'd just poured into her mouth. Once she swallowed, she raised one thick black eyebrow at him and practically growled, "Derek…shut up."

"Did you not see the look on John's face? He looked like he'd just gotten busted with his hand up her skirt or something," he continued incredulously, gesturing toward the gas station with both hands.

"Derek… I've already had one hell of a day and if you don't shut your mouth right now, I swear on everything holy, I will take out my gun and shoot you," Sarah calmly stated as though she were speaking to a small child then downed another sip from her bottled water and bit into a potato chip, the sharp snap of the chip between her teeth signaling the end of the conversation.

A/N: Ok, that's all for now! There's more, but I'm withholding it until I get some feedback on this thing. What? I'm not going to waste my time writing on this fic if nobody's gonna read it. Yes, I'm bitchy, blame it on lack of sleep and stress (fall semester is right around the corner…yay…back to college for me…). So, in short, review and let me know what you guys think of this thing. How do you like my version of John? And Cameron? I'm trying to make her more human w/o laying it on too thick, too fast. I'd like your opinion of Derek and Sarah, too, but John and Cameron are my primary concern.

Please review, I'm rather apprehensive about this fic. I began it right after the S1 finale but didn't post for months b/c I was "revising" (i.e., stalling b/c I couldn't decide if I liked it or if it was crap that wasn't worth posting).

Thanks for reading!